After a gap of four years, India and Pakistan will on Thursday resume talks in Islamabad on the Tulbul navigation project, also known as the Wular Lake project, in Jammu and Kashmir.
Work was suspended in October 2007 after Islamabad imposed it as a pre-condition for talks at the government-level. Before that, the matter was being handled at the level of the Permanent Indus Commission.
According to informed sources, India will seek an early resolution so that it can resume work on the project, which is located on the Jhelum river in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramullah district.
Water Resources Secretary D.V. Singh will lead India's delegation for the two-day secretary-level talks. Others in the delegation will include chairman of the Central Water Commission A.K. Bajaj and Indus Commissioner G. Aranganathan.
Eight rounds of secretary-level talks have been held since work was suspended on the project, followed by five more meetings in 1998, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 under Composite Dialogue between the two countries. In the last meeting in August 2007, it was decided that technical-level talks would form part of the officials' dialogue.
The Tulbul navigation project is located just below the exit of the Wular Lake, a natural lake. India envisages controlled release of water from the lake during the lean-season months of October to February to facilitate year-round navigation for commercial trade, employment and tourism.
New Delhi maintains that the regulating structure is permitted under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 for the non-consumptive use of navigation. Moreover, it holds that the project is beneficial for Pakistan as well as to firm up lean-season water supplies for its proposed projects and the Mangala dam in the PoK region.
Pakistan, however, contests it as a “storage project” and charges India with violation of the provisions under the Treaty. In 1986, Pakistan threatened to resolve the issue through a neutral expert as was done in the case of the Baglihar dam, or through an arbitration court as in the Kishanganga project.
A joint press statement is expected to be released in Islamabad on Friday.
Keywords: Tulbul navigation project